Authorities in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing have overturned the labor camp convictions of three people, all of whom were sentenced for their outspoken views.
Chongqing-based netizen Huang Chengcheng was released on Monday afternoon after his sentence was reversed by the city's re-education through labor committee on appeal, he said.
Huang said he believed he would be released sooner or later, as he had committed no crime. He was sent to a "re-education through labor" facility by Chongqing police after calling on the popular social media site QQ for netizens to gather to "drink jasmine tea," a veiled reference to online calls for a "jasmine revolution" inspired by the Arab Spring.
Chongqing authorities have overturned a number of labor camp sentences handed down during the rule of the city's once-powerful politician Bo Xilai, who now faces a criminal trial for corruption and involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Huang, who said he contracted hepatitis B from an injury sustained in the labor camp, is in poor health, and said he planned to have a full check-up after he had recovered.
Huang was criminally detained on March 18, 2010 on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," and sentenced to two years in labor camp on April 13, 2010.
Huang's sister Huang Haiyan said she hadn't believed that her brother's appeal could succeed.
"When I heard the sentence, my heart sank like a stone, and it was very hard for me to feel happy about anything," she said.
"But it's still a mixture of comedy and tragedy, because my innocent brother has still had to do 21 months in labor camp," she said. "There are many more people who have received similar sentences for their words alone."
"So it's still hard for me to feel happy about it."
Two Chongqing petitioners, Dai Yuequan and Lin Yongliang, also had their labor camp sentences overturned on Monday, and were unaware of the decision until they were taken to the office to sign the relevant documents, they said.
Neither Dai nor Lin had appealed their sentences, Dai told foreign media, adding that their sentences had been canceled because of "mishandling" by the authorities, unlike Huang's.
He said he would continue to seek an explanation for his sentence from the city's courts.
Dai's sentence came after he was detained for seeking redress for grievances related to workplace injuries in Beijing, the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in an e-mailed statement at the time.
"Interceptors from Tongliang county seized Dai on May 11 near the residence he was renting in the capital, and proceeded to blindfold, handcuff, and beat him," the group said.
Dai began petitioning after suffering a debilitating injury while making repairs in a reservoir and receiving little financial compensation to cover lost wages and medical costs, it said.
In September, Chongqing's re-education through labor committee overturned a two-year sentence handed down to local cartoonist Peng Hong in 2009.
Peng had posted on a popular forum a political cartoon that took aim at Bo's anti-crime campaigns, which some have likened to the arbitrary criminal convictions of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) era.
The powerful Bo, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's former Chongqing secretary, was sacked on March 15 and is currently under investigation for unspecified "disciplinary violations."
The announcement overturning Peng's conviction, dated Sept. 7, 2012, came a year after he finished serving the sentence. Peng was released from the labor re-education facility on Sept. 10, 2011.
Peng's critical cartoon, titled “Umbrella of Protection,” was originally posted to the Tianya forum in 2009, at the height of the "strike black" campaigns run by Bo and his right hand man and police chief Wang Lijun, which rights lawyers have said targeted innocent entrepreneurs, confiscating their fortunes.
The decisions handed down to Peng and Fang paved the way for the further overturning of Chongqing-based labor camp sentences, which can be handed down for a maximum of three years by administrative committees, without the need for a trial.
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.